The Hand Me Downs That Saved Lives During the Polar Vortex

Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.

Just yesterday, I met with the team at Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ Community Center to talk about the next Winter Gear Drive. Last year, we collected thousands of assorted hand-me-down and new items to distribute to homeless and marginalized people in the region. For free. And all winter long. So when the polar vortex reared its head again and again and again, the GLCC had coats, blankets and gloves to distribute. We sent bags and bags to the shelters that house our community, to the case managers who go out to visit those who are isolated and homebound.

Your donations poured in, boxes and bags filled with carefully folded items ready for a new home. Even on Christmas Eve, you showed up with blankets and coats and food to share.

Your hand-me-downs saved lives last winter as well as saved fingers, toes and other limbs that might have been lost to frost bite or worse. Your hand-me-downs kept people alive, both white they were on the street and by giving them a reason to come in from the cold and get connected with resources. Your hand-me-downs connected YOU with the Community Center, sometimes for the first time.  Your blankets reached seniors living on fixed incomes and with HIV. Your blankets helped parents protect their children when “more heat” wasn’t affordable. Your gloves made the bus stop bearable and your hats kept the sniffles at bay. Your coats made all the difference when someone had a growth spurt, lost weight during a health crisis or found themselves newly released from jail with nothing on their back. Your volunteer hours made it possible to sort, fold and distribute thousands of sweaters, pants, socks, and shoes, even when 29 bags showed up at 8:45 PM (we close at 9 PM.)

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Winter Gear Drive 2014-2015 will officially launch on October 1, 2014 and continue through the end of March 2015. We’ll have a comprehensive list of items most needed as well as a procedure for dropping off your donations. There are several ways you can start planning to get involved.

  • Organize a Drive. We’ll give you the list and some tips to make it a success. You can collect coats, blankets or all of the above for a few days, at an event or on an ongoing basis.
  • Volunteer. We absolutely need people to come in to the GLCC during our regular hours to sort, inventory and distribute the items. Whether you can commit to every other Monday evening or a one-time Saturday afternoon, your help is much needed.  18+ or youth volunteers with an adult. If we know the schedule of volunteers, it is easier for us to schedule large donations (sometimes people have pulled up with 3 vehicles.) To volunteer, email with your complete contact information and your availability. Regular hours are Mon – Sat 12 PM – 9 PM, Sunday 12-6.
  • Skills & Talents. Other needs for the project include graphic design, photography, drivers to collect donations and distribute to the community.
  • Other items. We need A LOT of sturdy garbage bags, gently used tote bags and similar items. Do you have bags leftover from say a cleanup project? Some tote bags you aren’t using. Please bring them by. Other items in big demand are rolls of masking tape, sharpies and pens.
Winter Gear Drive
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